TX College Un-Fires Bio Professor Who Taught Bio Pronouns

Johnson Varkey
Johnson Varkey | Image by First Liberty Institute

St. Philip’s College in San Antonio reinstated a professor who claimed he was fired for teaching that X and Y chromosomes determine sex, his lawyers announced Tuesday.

Johnson Varkey, who taught human anatomy for two decades at St. Philip’s College, was fired last year after students complained of his alleged “religious preaching, discriminatory comments about homosexuals and transgender individuals, anti-abortion rhetoric, and misogynistic banter,” as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

The First Liberty Institute, a legal group representing Varkey, responded by filing a charge of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the university, which included a claim that the firing was over his teaching of basic biology and that there are only two sexes.

Kayla Toney, a lawyer for First Liberty Institute, said St. Philip’s College responded to the complaint this year and reinstated Varkey in January. She said that Varkey will begin teaching at the college again in either March or the fall semester.

“The college’s willingness to reinstate him with a clear record and acknowledge that he is in good standing shows they recognize he belongs back in the classroom and is an acknowledgment he was teaching basic biology and should be able to continue to do so,” Toney told The Dallas Express.

First Liberty claimed in its charge of discrimination that St. Philip’s College violated Varkey’s First Amendment rights, the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Civil Rights Act.

Toney said the college never directly apologized to Varkey but acted in good faith to ensure he was reinstated. He was also given an undisclosed settlement.

“It’s favorable,” she told The Dallas Express of the deal. “We are very happy that the Alamo College district decided to do the right thing. Dr. Varkey is excited to be back in the classroom. He really looks forward to teaching students basic biology, just as he has for 20 years.”

According to Toney, the college never elaborated on the content of the complaints from students against Varkey, who said the professor would have liked to have discussed the concerns with the students directly.

Varkey’s termination notice last year from the college acknowledged his comments to students that sparked the complaints were part of a class curriculum but claimed he was “offensive” in how he taught the material.

“While some of the subject matter may be connected to class content, it was very clear, from the complaints, that you pushed beyond the bounds of academic freedom with your personal opinions that were offensive to many individuals in the classroom,” the notice read, which was sent by Randall Dawson, the vice president for academic success, at St. Philip’s College.

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